We recently returned from a trip on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express having also benefitted from the same offer of two free nights in Hotel Cipriani. The hotel is on the island of Giudecca and from our room in the Palazzo part of the hotel, we had the most amazing view. We were on the fourth (top) floor but the lift took you to the third floor and then it was only a short climb to our room. The view from our room was the iconic view of Venice, across the water to St Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace. The room had kitchenette and lounge areas and I was blown away by the possibility of lying in the bath and being able to watch the TV which was integrated in to the wall at the end of the bath. This worked independently of what was on in the bedroom. Sitting on the terrace overlooking the water while having breakfast was a great start to the day and choosing a cocktail from the extensive menu in the bar at the end of the day was a perfect finish. The friendliness and efficiency of the staff in the hotel were faultless. The logistics of getting us and our luggage from hotel to train worked extremely well and then this amazing experience on the train started. We were welcomed on board by our steward, Vincent, who contributed enormously to making the whole trip so special. Nothing was too much trouble for him and he did it all with a smile on his face the whole time. The compartments are compact but very well designed and comfortable. Having the opportunity to get dressed up for dinner was a fun experience and the meal, as were all of them, was as good as you would find in any top-class restaurant. Any special dietary requirements are catered for - all the staff were very well-informed about my husband not eating fish or drinking alcohol - and you are never made to feel that that caused them any problems. Your compartment is converted to the sleeping accommodation while you are at dinner and it is surprisingly comfortable. I was on the top bunk and it was a lot wider than I had expected. I did find it quite noisy overnight - earplugs would have been a good idea - but it didn't prevent me from having a good sleep. The transfer from the train in France to the train in England went fairly smoothly apart from being delayed through the border control but this was apparently very unusual. Contrary to the other reviewer's experience of the British Pullman, we found that the service in our carriage - Audrey - equalled that of the European train and again our steward was friendly and helpful answering all our questions about other trips on the VSOE. In fact we have already booked up to take my mother-in-law on one of the day trips from Victoria Station in September. I wouldn't hesitate to do this trip again - it wouldn't really matter the destination as the pleasure all comes from being on the train.
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